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Wildfires in U.S

Wildfires in U.S

CONTEXT:

  • By nearly every metric, the wildfires in the Western United States are worsening. They are growing larger, spreading faster and reaching higher, scaling mountain elevations that previously were too wet and cool to have supported fires this fierce.

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KEY DETAILS:

  • 2021’s Bootleg Fire, which began July 6 and at one point consumed more than 50,000 acres in a single day.

  • They are also getting more intense, killing a greater number of trees and eliminating entire patches of forest.

REASONS FOR WILDFIRES:

  • In the forests of the Western United States, half of wildfires are initiated by lightning (natural cause). The other half are human-caused —

    • frequently started by power lines

    • cigarettes

    • Cars

    • Camp fires or arson

  • In recent years, there’s been an abundance of very dry fuel:

    • Drought and high heat can kill trees

    • Dry out dead grass, pine needles, and any other material on the bottom of the forest floor that act as kindling when a fire sweeps through a forest.

WHAT IS WILDFIRES?

  • Fire intensity refers to its power, or the energy released from its blaze.

  • Satellites measure the energy and temperature of fires, and research has shown that the power of these blazes has been increasing.

  • The rate of spread is one of the most important factors, because it suggests that a fire may be less predictable. 

  • Severity refers to the consequences of a fire, for instance, how many trees are killed.

    • If a fire is tall and burning to the tops of trees and killing them, it could be more challenging to control.

WILDFIRE SMOKE THREAT:

  • Like air pollution, wildfire smoke — and particularly the concentration of PM 2.5, or particles smaller than 2.5 microns — can affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

  • For people who are healthy, the smoke can cause a

    • sore throat

    • coughing

    • shortness of breath

    • Decreased lung function

  • Those already suffering from cardiovascular or respiratory illnesses are at risk of flare-ups and should take extra precautions even when air quality is considered moderate.

  • Trees and biomass, for instance, will produce a combination of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxides, whereas

    • burning houses or cars could produce a whole range of compounds, including heavy metals.

MEASURES TO BE TAKEN DURING WILDFIRES

  • Stay indoors, keep windows and doors closed

  • Use High Efficiency Particulate Absorbing (HEPA) filter

  • Outdoors wear a form-fitting N95 mask.

  • In houses, keeping gutters and roofs free of leaves and debris, can prove remarkably effective

    • As a next step, replacing things like vents with a finer mesh screen or replacing siding and roofing with more fire-resistant materials is valuable.

SOURCE: Indian Express